Eugenie Bouchard pulled no punches when addressing the topic of Maria Sharapova’s return to the court via a Wildcard entry in Stuttgart, labelling the Russian “a cheater”.
Sharapova made her controversial return from a 15-month doping ban on Wednesday at the WTA tournament against Roberta Vinci.
In an interview with TRT World, Bouchard strongly opposed the decision to allow the former World No.1 to return, insisting that she should’ve been banned for life.
“I don’t think that’s right (Sharapova’s return). She’s a cheater and so to me, I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again.
“It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true. So, I think from the WTA, it sends the wrong message; cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms. She’s not someone who I can say I look up to anymore because it’s definitely ruined it for me a little bit.”
The Canadian was in Turkey this week for the Istanbul Cup but suffered an early exit on Tuesday, falling 6-0, 6-4 to Slovak Jana Cepelova.
Twelve years ago, Roger Federer came back from two sets down to deliver a heartbreaking defeat to a 19-year-old Rafael Nadal in the Miami final, avenging his shock loss to the Spaniard at the same tournament the year before.
Those two Miami encounters in 2004 and 2005 were the first between Federer and Nadal – a rivalry that later blossomed into one of the most iconic across all sport. While they’ve met on far grander stages since then, and will on Sunday (21:00 UAE time) square off in their 37th career meeting, Miami will forever serve as the cornerstone to the Federer-Nadal saga.
“Should be really exciting because we had this epic match in 2005 – the final was unbelievable. It was a turning point in my career, to be quite honest,” said the 35-year-old Federer of that comeback triumph 12 years ago.
“For me to be able to focus for, I don’t know how long we played, maybe four hours, smashing forehand after forehand down the line I remember, I felt like I had to learn how to fight in matches, and there I showed it to myself and my team that I could do it.
“It was against somebody who ended up being my biggest rival. It’s definitely going to be very special playing Rafa here again.”
They’ve both come out of the blocks firing this season, following an injury-plagued 2016, with Federer winning the Australian Open and Indian Wells within the last three months and Nadal reaching three finals and leading the tour in number of match wins (19). Not many would have predicted Nadal would still be playing tennis – let alone being competitive – as a 30-year-old, but the Mallorcan is finally fit and healthy and slowly regaining his grand slam-winning form.
“Of course I’m thrilled for him as well that he came back as well as he did after the comeback, the struggles that he had last year. Feels like old times. We’re playing each other every week now. We can’t get enough of each other,” joked Federer, who is a two-time Miami champion.
Nadal was outplayed by the Swiss in their most recent meeting in Indian Wells but the world No7 is unfazed by that result.
“I was playing well in Indian Wells. It’s true that I didn’t play my best match against Roger, but the feeling was good,” said Nadal. “Being honest, my draw was not the perfect one.”
Nadal will be playing his fifth Miami final and is yet to win the title there. “I don’t think that’s going to affect in terms of helping me to win or helping me to lose. That’s a long time ago. Last final was in 2011 I think,” he said.
Check out the most interesting stats ahead of the encounter on Sunday evening in the video above.
Who do you think will win the Miami Open final?
Swiss maestro Roger Federer isn’t just making it look easy on the courts at Indian Wells, but also off the courts too.
Watch Federer, Grigor Dimitrov and Tommy Haas give their rendition of the classic hit song from Chicago – Hard To Say I’m Sorry at Indian Wells.
Stay alert for there’s a ‘Videobomb’, by someone you might know…
Do you think Federer will go all the way at the BNP Paribas Open?